Graphene consists of a planar structure, with carbon atoms connected in a hexagonal shape that resembles a beehive. When graphene is reduced to several nanometers (nm) in size, it becomes a graphene quantum dot that exhibits fluorescent and semiconductor properties. Graphene quantum dots can be used in various applications as a novel material, including display screens, solar cells, secondary batteries, bioimaging, lighting, photocatalysis, and sensors. Interest in graphene quantum dots is growing, because recent research has demonstrated that controlling the proportion of heteroatoms (such as nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorous) within the carbon structures of certain materials enhances their optical, electrical, and catalytic properties. The Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST, President Seok-Jin Yoon) reported that the research team led by Dr. Byung-Joon Moon and Dr. Sukang Bae of the Functional Composite Materials Research Center have developed a technique to precisely control the bonding structure of single heteroatoms in the graphene quantum dot, which is a zero-dimensional carbon nanomaterial, through simple chemical reaction control; and that they identified the relevant reaction mechanisms.
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